More than three-dozen science and cultural organizations unite to shrink gender gap in STEM fields (PRNewswire)
More than 200 thought leaders and changemakers joined Lyda Hill Philanthropies last night at the American Museum of Natural History in New York as they announced a $25 million commitment to support women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through the new initiative IF/THEN. A first-of-its-kind coalition uniting preeminent science institutions with some of the most recognizable names and brands in popular culture, IF/THEN seeks to inspire girls to consider STEM careers.
Rooted in a firm belief that there is no better time to highlight positive and successful female professional role models, IF/THEN is designed to activate a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers by:
- Funding and elevating women in STEM as role models;
- Convening cross-sector partners in entertainment, fashion, sports, business and academia to illuminate the importance of STEM everywhere; and
- Inspiring girls with better portrayals of women in STEM through media and learning experiences to pique their interest in STEM careers.
“Our organization has always believed science is the answer to many of life’s problems. And, now more than ever, it’s important to showcase the women in STEM who are helping make our world a better place,” said Lyda Hill, founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies. “IF/THEN’s mission is to empower leading women STEM innovators to inspire the next generation of pioneers so that we can all build a better future.”
Though women constitute about half of the college-educated workforce in the United States, just a quarter of STEM professionals are female, and a lack of funding and visibility has caused female STEM professionals to receive significantly less credit for their work. This gender gap has impacted perceptions of women in STEM and trickles down to younger generations. In fact, a recent Microsoft study revealed that girls cite a lack of female role models in STEM as a key reason they do not follow a career in the sector.
“Together with our coalition members, we believe that having diverse opinions around the table is key to building a more innovative future, and we want to truly shift our culture to encourage future generations of world-changers,” said Nicole Small, president of Lyda Hill Philanthropies and co-founder of IF/THEN.
Built on the mantra that “if we support a woman in STEM, then she can change the world,” IF/THEN seeks to empower women and inspire girls to pursue careers in STEM. The initiative emphasizes that STEM is everywhere and essential to the success of our favorite movies, entertainers, athletes and business leaders. This approach illuminates a wide array of career opportunities for women and girls, represented by its launch coalition members which include:
- The Ad Council
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Geosciences Institute
- Association of Science-Technology Centers
- Conservation International
- Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media
- Girl Scouts of the USA
- The Hockaday School
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- Magical Elves
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Mathematical Sciences Research Institute
- National Geographic
- National Girls Collaborative Project
- The Nature Conservancy
- NRF Foundation
- Perot Museum of Nature and Science
- Research Corporation for Science Advancement
- The Science & Entertainment Exchange, a program of the National Academy of Sciences
- Steadman Philippon Research Institute
- Teach For America
- U.S. Soccer
- Wildlife Conservation Society
- World Wildlife Fund
“We have a responsibility, as women scientists, engineers, policy makers, and leaders, to break down the barriers that stand in the way of girls pursuing STEM careers,” said Susan Hockfield, Ph.D., president emerita of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It is incumbent upon all of us to transform all the ways in which we communicate the extraordinary opportunities in STEM fields.”
“Our Women’s National Team is one of the most successful teams in the history of sports,” said U.S. Soccer CEO/Secretary General Dan Flynn. “That success would not be possible without the medical experts and sports scientists that support our athletes. We are proud to collaborate with IF/THEN and Lyda Hill Philanthropies to raise the profile of the women in STEM at U.S. Soccer to show young girls that even if you do not take the field as a National Team player, by pursuing STEM you can still be part of our team.”
A core component of the initiative will be the selection of women STEM professionals by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to participate in the AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador Program. The AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador program will bring together 100 women from a variety of STEM professions – careers in traditional scientific disciplines as well as sports, fashion, gaming, entertainment and music – to serve as high-profile role models for middle school girls. AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors will gather for in-person summits, create personal press kits that highlight their stories and take their outreach to the next level, and have the chance to participate in original entertainment content and media opportunities.
IF/THEN will also create a digital asset library of photo and video content featuring the Ambassadors to be housed by the National Girls Collaborative Project and distributed to science museums, zoos, aquariums, schools, and through other girl-facing institutions around the country through partnerships with the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Girls Scouts of the USA, Teach For America, the Wildlife Conservation Society and numerous other nonprofit organizations.
In addition to the Ambassador program and the digital asset library, Lyda Hill Philanthropies is funding research activities of more than 100 other women to support groundbreaking research in STEM and is creating original content with entertainment partners. IF/THEN’s original content will feature women STEM professionals and will reach girls where they access content the most: on YouTube through partnerships with popular channels like GoldieBlox; on cable television shows such as Bravo’s Project Runway; and on network television through a weekly series highlighting the STEM behind popular culture.
IF/THEN is part of Lyda Hill Philanthropies’ commitment to support women in STEM, bringing their total investment toward women in STEM to more than $60 million over five years.
“2018 was a breakthrough year for women,” said Hill. “We want 2019 to be the year of female STEM pioneers!”
For more information about IF/THEN, visit www.ifthenshecan.org.
IF/THEN is part of Lyda Hill Philanthropies’ commitment to fund game-changing advancements in science and nature. IF/THEN seeks to further advance women in STEM by empowering current innovators and inspiring the next generation of pioneers. Rooted in a firm belief that there is no better time to highlight positive and successful female professional role models, IF/THEN is designed to activate a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers by: (1) funding and elevating women in STEM as role models, (2) convening cross-sector partners in entertainment, fashion, sports, business and academia to illuminate the importance of STEM everywhere, and (3) inspiring girls with better portrayals of women in STEM through media and learning experiences to pique their interest in STEM careers. To learn more, visit www.ifthenshecan.org.
About Lyda Hill Philanthropies
Lyda Hill Philanthropies encompasses the charitable giving of founder Lyda Hill and includes her foundation and personal philanthropy. Lyda Hill Philanthropies is committed to funding transformational advances in science and nature, empowering nonprofit organizations and improving the North Texas and Colorado Springs communities. To learn more about Lyda Hill Philanthropies, please visit https://lydahillphilanthropies.org/.